Friday, February 28, 2014

Hittin' The Road

February 28, 2014

I finally felt up to taking myself and my FitBit out for a walk tonight (after being out of commission due to a very painful dental emergency for three days)---and promptly fell flat on my face. I mean, literally. I stepped weirdly on a rock on the sidewalk, lost my balance and suddenly pitched forward. In order to avoid landing on my surgically 'enhanced' knee, I landed instead totally flat-out on my face and hands--like I had suddenly decided to do push-ups on the sidewalk at 11:00 at night. Three days without taking my FitBit out and about, and suddenly it's like I've completely forgotten how to walk. On the bright side, my cartoon pratfall offered a little humor break to my hubby (before he so kindly checked to see if I was okay and then helped me up).

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

And It's Only Tuesday

February 18, 2014

It's been an eventful few days.

--Traveled to San Diego for the CATE conference with my friend Julie
--Met a vibrant and energetic new friend at CATE
--Met several authors and got signed copies of several novels
--Met an author/artist who designed some of the computer graphics on blockbuster movies who is interested in coming to talk to our robotics team
--Got to visit with Bree twice while I was down in San Diego
--Got pulled over by the police who let me know that unbeknownst to me, I was driving around with both taillights out. (He was kind and didn't give me a ticket, thank goodness.)
--Went to my fourth Rick Springfield concert with my friend Francine
--Had a beautiful belated Valentine's dinner at Capo's with Doug
--Woke up this morning to discover that my debit card had been hacked and frozen
--Got a letter from the school acknowledging Nicholas' Honor Roll from 1st semester
--Found out that as a freshman, Danielle beat out several upperclassmen to fall in the top five discus throwers who qualify to throw at the upcoming track meet
--Got a little bit of a family bombshell revealed this evening

All that and it's only Tuesday.

There's Got to Be a Book in Here Somewhere

February 18, 2014

For the conference I attended in San Diego this weekend, I traveled with a long-time colleague.  When we got to the conference, she ran into an old friend she hadn't seen in about ten years.  They fell back into immediate familiarity, and the three of us spent a great deal of time together over long, comfortable meals full of food, drink, and lots of conversation. As new friends often do, we shared quite a lot about our backgrounds and histories, tossing about the stories and anecdotes that shaped our particular paths in life.  Seriously, get three articulate, passionate, creative writers and storytellers together--the entertainment just keeps going.  We often think our own lives to be fairly mundane and pedestrian because we were there, of course, so it seems matter of course to us.  However, as I think back on the memories and situations that came up in the course of the conversation, I am struck once again that if seen by the objective eye, my life might not be quite so mundane as I often think it to be.
I shared stories, to name a few, about...
--the stream of illegal immigrants my parents hired as nannies when we were young in order to give them a start in their new country
--the morbid fear of knives I developed--and still have--because a babysitter (not one of the illegal ones) chased us to our neighbor's house, threatening to kill us
--the time my brother nearly blinded me as a very young girl
--the time my brother nearly blinded my sister as a slightly older young girl
--the time my brother smashed through our patio door to prove he had 'learned' karate
--the time we blindfolded and tied up my younger brother and left him, forgotten, in our attic for several hours
--the time I was homeless for a short while in junior high
--the time my parents bought a private school and we tried to make a run of it for the blink of an eye before they had to shut it down for financial reasons and we were shuttled back to public school
--the private investigator my father hired to spy on us during high school
--the time a party at my apartment (thrown by my roommate, who just happened to be my brother) very nearly ended my teaching career before it ever began
--the time I found nearly $4000 worth of drugs in my apartment
--the last time I ever saw my dad alive

We did, as I said, a LOT of talking.  My counterparts shared just as much of their own histories, which were fascinating and as foreign to me as my experiences were to them.  At the end of the weekend, we came away with two things: we all really enjoyed each others' company, and we all quite possibly have a book in us somewhere.  I mean, I could write a whole book on my brother alone!  Someday...

Monday, February 3, 2014

Now You've Done It

February 3, 2014
I’m not a Coca-Cola consumer in general—most of my soda dollars (which are considerable) go to Pepsico.  I just like the taste better.  Oh, I’m not one of those who would rather drink water than a Diet Coke; that would be silly.  I’ll drink a Diet Coke if Diet Pepsi is not available, but on the whole, brand me Ms. Pepsi.

However, during the Super Bowl yesterday, Coca-Cola did something that gained my attention.  It gained the attention of a lot of folks, actually, because naturally it happened during one of the biggest television-viewing events of the year.  What did they do? They aired a commercial.  It was a simple, feel-good advertisement meant to celebrate all the harmony and diversity in our country.  Or, if you ask others, it was yet another example of the insidious and intentional un-doing of all that makes this a great country.
Any guesses which side of the metaphorical fence I fall on in this debate?  Because there was a debate, of sorts: an immediate flurry of social media posts of both support of and outrage at the advertisement.  The issue at hand?  The commercial showed several successive vignettes of folks singing “America the Beautiful”.  The actors in the commercial were young and old, from the city and from the country, and represented several ethnicities.  And they were singing the song in lots of different languages.  It started off in English, and ended in English as well, but in between, several other languages were represented.  Beautiful, sweet renditions of people singing about the country that they love.

But they weren’t all singing in English, which was the heart of the matter.  I saw Facebook posts which read, “You’ve done it now, Coca-Cola!” and “I guarantee you not one serviceman died in the service of his country so that you could speak another language!”, among others.  Well now, I’m not so sure about that.  Since when is freedom defined as being required to speak one language?  I’m not saying that folks who live in the United States shouldn’t learn English; I think it’s the way one learns to navigate successfully in this society.  But do I think that means they must forsake any other language they might know? Effectively separate themselves from a culture, a history, a family they also call their own?  How arrogant and single-minded to want to negate the multiplicity of culture that is what makes this country so great.

Mind you, I am not here to engage in the “Official Language” debate, or the “English Only Ballot” debate.  Those are separate conversations that involve so much.  Economics. Opportunities for upward mobility. Business.  An informed citizenry.  Even the idea of nationalism and patriotism.   These issues and more all figure into the discussion of whether or not we should call for an “Official Language” of the people, and honestly, there are good, rational points to be made on both sides of that argument.  We are not, however, discussing that issue.  We are discussing how offended we are (or are not) that Coca-Cola dared to air an advertisement where people were singing—celebrating—this beautiful country in just a handful of the languages that represent the vast multicultural landscape of its inhabitants.

I am not offended.  I don’t think one has to forego one language to embrace another.  When one speaks Spanish, for example, where is it written that it means he or she refuses to learn English? Or is somehow ungrateful to have the opportunities they have in this country or is being disrespectful to servicemen who protect the freedoms afforded us here?  This is not an either/or, black and white world we live in.  The richness of experiences, including cultural and social experiences, is what makes this country beautiful, not the absence of difference.  Not whitewashed sameness.

Coca-Cola got my attention, and the attention of a great many others, for better or worse.  And the company knew that it would, and aired the commercial anyway.  They knew they might (and in fact will) lose some customers because of it.  They decided to celebrate diversity and simplicity by highlighting one of our country’s beloved ballads, letting many voices shine, rather than let divisiveness of potential detractors sway them, and for that I have great respect.  They may not always get my soda dollars, but yesterday, they did earn my respect.